By Bruce Meyer
If it was the high fever he ran when he was twelve or the magic mushroom he had tried, by accident, at a party when he was thirteen – whatever the cause, the problem dated from around that age. His problem was simple. If he imagined something, if he saw a colour, or if he heard a particular sound, he could taste a particular food. A yellow room might set him salivating madly for lemons.
A doctor told him he suffered from synesthesia. Many did. Some people, the doctor said, were driven mad by it, but if he learned how to use as a gift rather than a curse the confusion of the senses might come in handy someday.
The problem was he could imagine a thick, juicy steak cooking somewhere nearby if he caught the aroma of it. He could see the pale brownish grey of the outside being seared, and taste the red juices flowing from the rare meat in its center.
If it was a gift, he struggled not only to control it but to put it to good use. The psychiatrists who examined him agreed he could put it to good use, but how remained the issue.
He was overcome by images of summer. He saw wild raspberries on the cane, a hand reaching in and plucking one gently so as not to crush the tiny globes of sweet red blood that gathered around the seeds. He saw a sunset, red and glowing with the promise of good weather in the morning, and the lips of a girl he had a crush on in his first year Anthropology class. But he had been expelled from the university. A guy in front of his during an examination reminded him a meaty steak until he stood up and bit the boy’s shoulder.
But there were benefits to the malady. He started an on-line service for writers. They could message him if they hit a block. He would respond by asking what colour the room was, or what flower the character might have in a vase on a table. Half the time his clients were baffled and never responded.
One day, he received an inquiry. What is love?
He responded to the question that love was every colour a person could imagine, every taste, every song, and sound echoing through the dawn of a perfect summer morning when the ground is damp with dew and the meadows sparkle.
But in writing his response to the inquiry he was so overcome he passed out at his computer. A darkness enveloped him that was cold and starless, and he wanted more than anything to find something to feel there, something that would touch at least one of his senses, but he realized the power of love was ambrosia, a taste beyond description, and he would never experience it in any of its lesser forms if he returned to the land of the living.
Bruce Meyer is author or editor of 64 books of poetry, short fiction, flash fiction, and non-fiction. His most recent book of fiction is A Feast of Brief Hopes (Guernica Editions, 2018). He lives in Barrie, Ontario.